Her unhappy destination? The site of execution.
Agnes was an attractive young Christian teenage girl, living in Rome at the turn of the third century. She would have made a good wife: her parents were wealthy and she was attractive. But Agnes was adamant; she had decided she did not want to marry but would live a life of undivided devotion to Jesus. Some of Rome’s disappointed young men reported her to the governor, who thought, by gentle persuasion, one so young could quickly be won over.
He was wrong.
‘No’ said Agnes again ‘I can have no other husband but Christ!’
Agnes’ persecutors showed her fire, iron hooks, racks and other instruments of torture and threatened her with immediate execution. Agnes remained resolute. She was then dragged before the idols of Rome and commanded to offer incense. To refuse to do this bore the death penalty but again Agnes stood her ground.
By now the governor’s wrath was aroused. “Send her to the local brothel!” he angrily commanded, “and let her be abused there!”
Agnes’ calm reply was that Jesus was too jealous of the purity of His spouses to allow them to be violated in such a way; Jesus was their defender and protector.
It was written later that as Agnes was led off to the brothel, a sense of divine awe fell upon the place and no one was able to touch her.
The young teenager was condemned to death and, as she passed through the streets of ancient Rome, Ambrose, the fourth century church leader and writer later wrote: “she went to the place of execution more cheerfully than others go to their wedding.”
Agnes said a short prayer, bowed her head to worship God and was then executed by the sword.
Many in the crowd wept as they saw Agnes led in chains to the site of execution – not only because of her age but because of her fearlessness, loyalty and devotion. In future years her emblem in Christian art became a lamb, signifying purity and sacrifice – and presumably her willingness to be led ‘like a lamb to the slaughter’ for what she believed in and held so dear.
Agnes showed immense courage and that quality of outrageous, undivided love that stretches and stretches and defies all fear. Her life, her death spoke: “I’ll walk the highest way that I can go … because of my devotion to Jesus … I‘ll settle for celibacy … nothing less …”